Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

A conversation with Robert Weide, filmmaker*, biographer and personal friend of Kurt Vonnegut will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at IU Cinema, 1213 E. Seventh St.  For more than 30 years, Weide has been working to create a definitive documentary covering Vonnegut’s life and work. He will give a sneak preview of several extended clips of the work in progress and discuss his work on the film.  (From the “Events” section of the local newspaper.)

So I, a Vonnegut fan, a writer myself, and one interested in the arts — and creation of art — in general, made sure to be there last night. In fact, I even prepared myself by making a point to read the preface (by editor and compiler Peter Reed) and Vonnegut’s own introduction to 1999’s BAGOMBO SNUFF BOX, of previously uncollected short fiction, which describe the period in which these works were written, the 1950s and early ’60s where one could earn $3000 for a short story from magazines like COSMOPOLITAN or THE SATURDAY EVENING POST; the rise of TV that replaced these magazines to a large part, bringing a time where one had to write a whole novel to earn the same amount as an advance.  But Vonnegut’s early novels never sold that well until, including a deal of luck, his masterpiece SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE with its anti-war sentiment hit the market at just the right time to become a best seller.  And so I was able to anticipate some of what was to come, as described in the Indiana University Cinema’s blurb:  This special event is a conversation with filmmaker, biographer, and Kurt Vonnegut’s personal friend, Robert Weide, incorporating extended clips from a work-in-progress version of his long-awaited film, KURT VONNEGUT:  UNSTUCK IN TIME.

More than 11 years after his death, Kurt Vonnegut — who was born and raised in Indianapolis — remains one of the most popular literary figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Readers from one generation to the next, the world over, continue to find their lives transformed by his comic and cosmic insights, on display in such bestselling books as CAT’S CRADLE, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, MOTHER NIGHT, GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, and on and on.  Amazingly, all of Vonnegut’s works remain in print, and his popularity shows no sign of waning. Yet to-date, there has been no definitive film documentary covering his extraordinary life and work.  For over 30 years, film and TV producer, director, and personal friend, Robert Weide, has been working to correct that oversight.  He will be giving a sneak preview of several extended clips from the work-in-progress, as he discusses his 36-year odyssey to complete the film.

The event is presented as part of Granfalloon**: A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence, an initiative of the Arts & Humanities Council of Indiana University.

And so it goes, for me, as writer, an enlightening and a humbling experience.  Yes, luck played a part in Vonnegut’s success, both good and bad, plus some horrendous life experiences, but I’d not realized the amount of hard work, and number of false starts that went into SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE until he got it “right.”  Or that success did not go well with him in certain ways, though it did in others, including a final bit of luck in his reluctant 2005 publication of A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, a collection of essays that became an instant best seller, two years before his 2007 death.

But one more surprise too, while the blurb spoke of film clips, Robert Weide announced that he couldn’t decide, ultimately, which ones to show, so instead we we got to see the entire two-hour film, in its present not-quite-completed condition, followed in turn by a Q and A session.  A little bit rough, but whenever the final version comes out, I’ll recommend it!
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*Among other things screenwriter and co-producer of the film version of Vonnegut’s MOTHER NIGHT.

**(Wikipedia)  A granfalloon, in the fictional religion of Bokononism (created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel CAT’S CRADLE), is defined as a “false karass”. That is, it is a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is meaningless.  Charles J. Shields’s 2011 AND SO IT GOES:  KURT VONNEGUT:  A LIFE  quotes the novelist, who wrote that a “granfalloon is a proud and meaningless collection of human beings. . .”  That biography also cites Hoosiers as “one of [Vonnegut’s] favorite examples” of what the term refers to.  Other events include displays at the Lilly Rare Book Library, lectures both there and at City Hall, a stage reading of the musical adaptation of GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, and several concerts.

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Whoever thinks that the countryside is calm and peaceful is mistaken.  In it we find especially agitated animals, a Fox that thinks it’s a chicken, a Rabbit that acts like a stork, and a Duck who wants to replace Father Christmas.  If you want to take a vacation, keep driving past this place.  So says IMDb and the place is France, or at least in the 2017 cartoon, based in turn on a series of Franch graphic novels, LE GRAND MÉCHANT RENARD ET AUTRES CONTES in a U.S. sneak preview this afternoon at the Indiana University Cinema.  And the fox (le renard) no relation to those we met in the comments in the post just below (April 24), the would-be harassers of beleagured cat Arlo, but funny and just a little bit scary (violent, at least, enough to for one father to have to leave with his upset child) as he attempts, under the tutelage of the big bad wolf, to steal if not chickens, three freshly laid eggs which, when they hatch, might provide them both lunch.  The only trouble, when they do hatch, the first thing the chicks see being the fox they immediately bond with him as their “mother” — and hence, of course, he bonds back.

So which are they, prey or predators, foxes or chickens, in what unfolds as an examination of identity and the meaning of family (restored to the farmyard, the chicks get in trouble in school, e.g., for trying to bite their fellow pupils)?  Combine with this two other tales, “Baby Delivery” and “The Perfect Christmas,” under the frame of the “Honeysuckle Farm Players” (of whom our fox is a principal actor) presenting a play for our enjoyment — in French, to be sure, but with English subtitles.  Its distribution in the U.S. has been delayed for a month or two, however, according to the IU Cinema docent, to the point where they almost didn’t want us to see it this early, but it isn’t silly (despite its premises) and it is funny as well as in some places just a bit touching, a lovely Saturday matinee should you get a chance when the time comes to see it.

Ah, back to the routine of the writing life, or . . . maybe not quite so routine in this instance.  One may recall that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s magazine STAR*LINE had accepted five poems from me last month (see February 25), to be spaced out over the coming year’s issues.  Today, wasting no time, the proof sheets for the coming Spring issue arrived with four (count ’em) poems of the five included!  A trifecta plus one, or, how’s that for dominating an issue?  (Well, given the poems are all very short, perhaps not exactly domination, but still. . . .).

So the poems are “Never Trust a Vampiress,” “Oh No She Didn’t?'” “From the Zombie Hunters Field Guide:  Tracking the Zombie,” and “The Young Transylvanian’s Guide to Dating:  Taking Your Date Home,” leaving the longest of the original five (by a whopping one line) to stand alone in a future issue.  I like the choices and the order — scarcely ten pages of the coming STAR*LINE can be read without coming across my name!  But more to the point, except for one minor note, all in the issue looked fine to me and so it went back this afternoon.

Quoting the blurb:  Third Flatiron’s new speculative fiction anthology, MONSTROSITIES, contains 20 short stories about things that are disturbingly large or outrageous.  A flash humor section, “Grins and Gurgles,” is also featured.

An international group of new and established contributors to “Monstrosites” makes this an original and varied collection that is sure to please fans of science fiction/fantasy, humor, and horror.  Writers include Keyan Bowes, Larry Hodges, Carl R. Jennings, Mark Pantoja, Ray Daley, Brian Trent, James Dorr, Liam Hogan, Salinda Tyson, Jennifer R. Povey, Ville Merilainen, Sita C. Romero, Martin M. Clark, Sharon Diane King, Julia August, Robert Bagnall, Barry Charman, Russell Hemmell, and Joseph Sidari.  With a special reprint from Edward Bryant.  Edited by Juliana Rew.

Yes, MONSTROSITIES is out on schedule including my story, “Got Them Wash Day Blues” (cf. February 24; December 28 2017), in Kindle format.  A print edition should follow as well in about a week, but for now for stories of things more enormous than they ought to be — including my own of laundry gone wild — one may check what Amazon has to offer by pressing here.

Five funny things, actually.  Lately my poetry has tended to ultra short, epigrammatic pieces, hopefully with a small punch or a laugh.  The one I had in the fall STAR*LINE, for instance, “Wet Work” (see December 2, et al.), is an example.  So it was that I sent five more to STAR*LINE in mid-December, the last of which in fact, I noted, was sort of a commentary on “Wet Work,” though goofier, maybe.  But to the point, the email came back yesterday from Editor Vince Gotera:  All five were accepted!  They’ll come out over the course of the rest of the volume year.  Probably one or two at a time.  So despite rainy, gloomy weather outside, Saturday ended up being a great day (I also finished a story that afternoon, in itself reason enough to celebrate)!

The poems (watch for them!  They’ll likely come out in a different order) are titled “From the Zombie Hunter’s Field Guide:  Tracking the Zombie,” “The Young Transylvanian’s Guide to Dating:  Taking Your Date Home,” “Never Trust a Vampiress,” “What She Learned,” and (this the one based on “Wet Work”) “Oh No She Didn’t?”  While more on STAR*LINE and sponsor/publisher Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association can be found here.

For Kindle, that is, with a publication date listed as March 10 and, hopefully, a print edition to come later.  The book is MONSTROSITIES, Third Flatiron Publishing’s Spring anthology, on [t]hings that are just too big or that don’t scale.  Whether it’s the new shopping mall down the street, kaiju attacking Tokyo, flawed utopian ideas, the supposed ultimate weapon, or somebody who’s way too big for his britches. . . .  Well, you get the idea.  And my part in this one is a short story, “Got Them Washday Blues,” about a bad night at a local laundrette.  (And what’s a laundrette?  Well, read it to find out.)

So you probably know what a laundrette (also, “launderette”) is anyhow, or can figure it out, though the word’s more English English than American.  While as for MONSTROSITIES, more information can be found here.

“Panic and a head full of snot are not a match made in heaven.”  That was the first line; that was the challenge.  Years ago, to write a story using that first line, which was just wacky enough that I did write that story, the tale of a laundry policeman with allergies vs. a giant soiled clothes monster titled “Got Them Wash Day Blues.”  Not surprisingly, it was taking some time to find a market.

But then came the call, from Juliana Rew of Third Flatiron Publishing, buyers not that long ago of my “Dead Girls, Dying Girls” for their Kurt Vonnegut CAT’S BREAKFAST tribute anthology (cf. newland-godzilla-bambiJuly 11, June 15, et al.) among others and known sometimes for an eccentric sense of humor, a new anthology set for spring to be called MONSTROSITIES.  Things that are just too big or that don’t scale.  Whether it’s the new shopping mall down the street, kaiju attacking Tokyo, flawed utopian ideas, the supposed ultimate weapon, or somebody who’s way too big for his britches, we all have had to deal with humongous blunders.  Get it off your chest–share with us your favorite monstrosities.  Hmmmm. . . .

And so yesterday afternoon came the email.  We definitely want “Got Them Washday Blues.”  Let us know if still available and we’ll get back with a contract in January.

More to be revealed here as it becomes known.

Two quick Saturday items, the first of which is the receipt of a large paperback copy of THE SOCIETY OF MISFIT STORIES PRESENTS. . . , VOLUME ONE.  This is the hard copy version of Bards and Sages Publishing’s first year’s collection of longer stories, that is ones hard to place in most electronic magazines, etc., because of their length.  And mine, “By Force and Against the King’s Peace,” a magical courtroom drama originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, appears first in the book, a result of it winning a readers poll in its electronic version (cf. October 16, January 19, et al.).  For more, one may press here.

Then today also marked the Bloomington Writers Guild’s Year End Party and Annual General Business Meeting Plus Open Mic, for which I presented orange slices for the pitch-in refreshments, and eight very recent, very short, epigrammatic poems for the readings.  One of which, “Wet Work,” was my most recently published poem in the current STAR*LINE (see December 2, et al.), while the others, thus far unpublished, were “From the Zombie Hunters Field Guide:  Tracking the Zombie,” “The Young Transylvanian’s Guide to Dating:  Taking Your Date Home,” “Never Trust a Vampiress,” “What She Learned,” “Oh No She Didn’t?,” “City of Angels,” and “Land of Milk and Honey.”

The first thing she decided was that the 15-foot long, garbage-eating steampunk river cleaner would have a cheesily well-developed sense of humor.

“As soon as I started making snake puns, you had 20 other followers that were making hilarious other snake jokes,” she explains.  “So it became really great that way.”

Stegman continues to infuse Mr. Trash Wheel with her own “nerdom and geekdom,” which has endeared him to fans around the city.  He loves “Star Wars.”  He makes “Lord of the Rings” fan art.  He writes “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels and has spent hours answering questions on Reddit.  Occasionally, he participates in local events.

The “she” is Robyn Stegman, the official voice of Baltimore’s “Mr Trash Wheel,” a fifteen-foot long solar-powered device built to help clean trash out of Baltimore’s Jones Falls River.  And snake puns refer to an incident involving an escaped ball python found, having climbed up its conveyor belt, wrapped around a control box on Mr. Trash Wheel.  Baltimoreans loved it (well, most of them anyway).

It is what it is.  The article’s full title, by Eric March, is “2 Googly Eyes and a Dream:  How Mr. Trash Wheel Went Viral and Conquered Baltimore” and can be found on UPWORTHY.COM.  But what a neat idea!  And a happy story for environmental protection mavens as November ebbs and we enter the season of coming Christmas.

To read it for yourself press here.

Lish McBride on TOR.COM, began it this way:  At first I thought, I’m not going to do a Halloween post.  After all, what can be more terrifying than this year?

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  2017 jumped the shark a long time ago in regards to how mind-numbingly horrifying it has been.  I can’t think of a worse time.  (Except maybe high school.)

But then she recalled that horror sometimes helps in forgetting, if for a moment, one’s own aversions — and humor, most definitely, can as well.  Thus another list was born, to be reported here — “Necessary Whimsy:  Vampire Bunnies and Other Weird-But-Fun Halloween Reads,” with one caveat, perhaps, that some (most?) are geared to young adult readers or even children.  But does not Halloween bring out the inner child in us too?

Let all be revealed by pressing here.




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